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Millers Crossing - Rotherham Report
By: Tony Butcher
A VERY MILD starry night, with an occasionally stiff breeze blowing through the architectural oddity that is Millmoor. About 500 Town fans squeezed themselves into the smallest seats in the North behind the goal as seen on the right on the television.
Rotherham Utd 1 Grimsby Town 1
30 Jan 2002, Nationwide League Division 1
The squeeze was exacerbated by the lack of leg room, only those under 5 foot 3, or what Terry Collier would describe as of "wiry" frame could fit into the plastic. So a cross between Ben Chapman and Peter Crouch was the everyfan the stadium designer had in mind.
The Town players warmed up in their usual manner, with the usual sprints and jumps, on a firm looking pitch, which didn't look so firm 5 minutes later. It seemed to have a lot of sand on it, so much merriment at Rotherham's success being built on sandcastles in the air, ho-ho indeed. Ho-ho-ho indeed, here comes the mascot! A bulbous cloth head, stuffed arms, a cherubic, if vacant smile and a white apron to hint at the identity - a miller. It's not even the Mighty Mariner. How low can praise get?
The Town fans were in a relatively positive mood (i.e. they didn't moan for several minutes) and sang heartily for a full minute preceding the start of the game, though they did "forget" to sing happy birthday to Ronnie Moore. We've come to spoil your party, Ronnie. We're usually very good at that sort of thing. Isn't our very existence in division one testimony to that. Come to think of it, the very existence of the Town is a party pooper of sorts. Distressingly someone had thought up a new "chant". Why did I put the word thought in that sentence? Shall we call it the Flamenco Fish? A few taps on the upturned seats then shout "Fish".
Town lined up, in the full striped outfit. So where was Ben Chapman? The formation appeared to be a 3-5-2, with Willems as the left wing back/midfielder. Campbell played just inside him, with Coldicott as the central midfield "anchor". Boulding played as an orthodox striker with Big Bob. The formation appeared to be the more attacking 3-5-2, with both Butterfield and Willems very advanced.
Town kicked off towards the Town fans with a chip up the left touchline in the general vicinity of Willems. It went out for a throw in. Rotherham immediately seized some sort of control, mainly through the vigour and directness of their play - a very "up and at 'em" style, constantly turning the Town defence with balls down the channels, balls in the air, and lots of supporting runs from midfield.
It all meant that Town were constantly under pressure. Monkhouse, on their left was a particular threat in the opening 15 minutes, being a strong dribbler, who specialised in surging in from the wing towards the centre. Butterfield was quite dilatory in his marking and tracking. McDermott can't come back quickly enough.
All this created some excitement for the home supporters, and a few dangerous moments, but fortunately no magic moments. Rotherham like to cross the ball, and cross it they did. A lot. Fortunately for Town their crossing was wayward and/or a town defender was perfectly placed to deal with the danger.
After a few minutes Rotherham did manage top get a header on target (McIntosh, I think) following a free kick way out on the Rotherham right, near the corner. It was headed firmly to Coyne's left from about a dozen yards out. Easily dealt with, like swatting a dead fly for Danny Boy.
Rotherham continued to pile forward, winning a few corners and loads of throw ins. Why mention something so mundane as a throw in? Well they did have a bloke with a Challinoresque chuck, fizzing flatly through the glorious night sky towards goal. A couple fizzed right through the area, one going straight to Coyne. All dangerous merely because of the number of bodies in the box and the confusion sown. Not pretty stuff, barely football, and, luckily, not effective. Was it luck? Some may say good defending by all the Town players.
Town were barely an attacking entity, with too many high "passes" aimed vaguely towards the forwards. And normally Boulding. Hardly any of the "big balls" went near Bob (and so I can't use the phrase "Big ball Bob", oh, I did anyway). Town just can't play route one, or direct, football. Much as the aesthetes amongst us deride the philistine football, there is a method, even an art, to it. Players have to be coached to produce an effective brand of "up and at 'em" football, it isn't all luck. Rotherham being a classic example, their players were able to anticipate where a knock down was likely to go, and that a team mate was likely to be in a certain position.
Town, on the other hand, relied upon fortune. It was the football of hope rather than expectation. There were hints that the period after the Crewe drubbing had been utilised to coach some attacking notions - Boulding and Taylor hinted at such with some movement when the ball was played up towards Taylor. Boulding made arcing, darting runs, which revealed to even the untrained eye that "work had been done". But Boulding forgot the coaching after 20 minutes and Town were back to hit and hope.
So far a few hundred words and what have we to show for it? A couple of crosses by Rotherham. Boring, well, a bit, but Town did have a couple of attacks in the first part of the first half. And probably the best chance too. Town were awarded a free kick right on the touchline, about 20 yards from the bye-line (I think after Willems managed to get himself sandwiched between two Rotherham players, and fell wonderfully).
Gallimore swung the free kick into the middle of the penalty area, right on to the 6-yard line. Burnett raced in and just beat his marker to the ball, heading firmly, but high, high, high. Perhaps 4 foot over the bar. There was a very minor moment of interest when Coldicott hoofed a clearance down the middle of the pitch. Boulding scurried forward as a defender tried to protect the ball as it bounced towards their 'keeper. The goalkeeper hesitatingly came out of his area and just managed to get to the ball before Boulding, thighing the ball to safety. Now that was almost exciting.
A couple of people started yawning and others drifted off to assert their Englishness by starting a queue for the pie stall. Yes, it was a bit dull; the game was up the other end of the pitch mostly, with Town defending stoutly (copyright Geoff Ford). Yet more crosses fizzed into, and out of, the Town penalty area.
After a quickly taken throw in on the Town left, the ball was headed on into the area and one of the Rotherham midfielders raced past the last Town defenders, wide of the goal. He chipped a cross through the 6-yard box towards the on-rushing Monkhouse, just beyond the far post. Butterfield calmly strolled across and dived at Monkhouse, doing enough for the ball to the diverted. A mini scramble near the foot of the post ended with Ford clearing for a corner.
Around the same time, another cross went through the area from left to right, missing everyone. And a little before that the Rotherham right wingerish, Sedgwick, dribbled down the left past two or three Town players, cut inside and headed across the face of the penalty area. When he was just to the left of centre he hit a low shot a few inches wide of Coyne's left hand post. No need to worry, Coyne had it covered
There was a brief moment of hope when the Rotherham 'keeper came out of his area on his right to clear and miss-kicked straight to Willems. Willems controlled the ball, looked up, and played a superbly weighted pass to the unmarked Taylor, thus setting him free on goal. Err, no, that's a superbly weighted pass to the offside-by-10 yards Taylor. He was offside because he was the one who had charged at Pollitt to force the error. A moment of supreme thoughtlessness by Willems. The Town fans loudly commented upon this faux pas.
With less than 10 minutes left of the half something unusual occurred, so unusual it can be classed as rare, and therefore valuable. There were some Town fans who had claimed to have seen something similar, but not many. A goal, an away goal to boot. And you thought that it was a mystical magical myth, like Excalibur, or Stacy Coldicott's hairline.
It all started on a clear, moonlit night, in a land far, far away when a Knight slayed an evil dragon and found some treasure. That's right Tony Gallimore won a tackle near the half way line. He clipped a low diagonal pass up to Taylor, about 30 yards out, just to the right of centre with his back to goal. Taylor controlled the ball on his chest, turned and waited for some support from midfield.
The tale continues in all its wonder - Butterfield raced up the touchline and Taylor played a great pass inside the full back. Butterfield crossed from near the bye-line, inside the area, low through the 6-yard area. The goalkeeper watched as the ball bumbled to the far post, where Boulding and Swailes lurked. Boulding just got to the ball first, about 3 or 4 yards out, almost level with the post. The ball seemed to hit Swailes, who turned round and hammered a clearance off the post. The ball rebounded into the middle of the goal, about 7 or 8 yards to TAYLOR, who calmly poked the ball into the top right hand corner with the outside of his right boot.
Taylor raced to the Town fans and was mobbed by his team-mates. Some of the younger Town fans raced forwards and there was a stand off between the stewards and the small boys, with the police eventually waddling in from stage right to calm matters (one of the thickest of the thickset stewards seemed to be trying to pull one lad on to the perimeter. No ejection, just much pointing and shouting). All of which slightly detracted from the moment of magic brought to us on a silver platter by Taylor. We were happy, at last.
The last few minutes of the first half were played down the Town end, but no real chances for Rotherham, just more of the same. Crosses and throw ins flung in, bodies thrown towards the ball. Some scrambles, some clearances. Nothing to trouble Coyne (Rotherham had a couple of soft headers which plopped nicely into his arms)
There was one annoying moment when Mullin ballooned an attempted volley high into the sky, The ball dropped behind, just over the bar, with Coyne leaping up just to make sure. The linesman flagged for a goal kick, but the referee gave a corner, presumably for Coyne tipping the ball over the bar. How the referee could tell when the linesman was level defied belief. Fortunately, nothing alarming happened after that. Ah, another Town attack. Campbell tricked his way down the left touchline with a quick spin, then clipped a cross into the near post. Boulding flipped a back header over the goalkeeper, who scrambled across his line and dive to save at the far post. Boulding got a crack on the head for that.
A minute of added time, and it was time for the pie queue to grow. The Town players were cheered off the pitch, especially Taylor. Overall pleasing, though the nagging fear was that Town were allowing Rotherham to dictate how they wanted to play. And it is the sort of "style" that always triumphs over Town. Rotherham crack the ball into the penalty area so often they were bound to create a chance or two in the second half, though only if they changed their strikers, who were, frankly, rubbish. Even by Town standards of rubbishness.
What an unusual feeling - half time happiness.
Stu's Half Time Toilet Talk
"That Taylor's done nothing yet. Except score"
The report continues in the second half.
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